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Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Steve Otto Columns

Otto: No breaking news in the 'news'


After three weeks of 24/7 “breaking news,” my guess is we might have called wolf a few too many times reporting on the missing Malaysian Airlines jet.

For most of last week, other than the teams I'd picked in my March Madness pool dropping like flies on games all over the tube, everywhere else you turned there was constantly “breaking news” of some fuzzy satellite photo of what might be missing pieces of the vanished plane.

That would be followed by an analysis by some so-called expert on missing planes or even a panel of experts expounding away on what might have happened to the huge jet.

At first it was a fascinating mystery as well as horrific tragedy trying to guess what had gone wrong. As the days wore on, the speculating took some weird twists. It reached the point where someone suggested it might have been swallowed up by a black hole or that aliens had taken it inside a mother ship and zipped off into the cosmos.

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Speculation, which has become a filler for substance these days, is something else. It seems to me it used to be that “breaking news” was just that, with the emphasis on “news.”

Of course, giving balance to news stories has always been subjective. I remember at the old afternoon Tampa Times the rule was that the final edition had to have a different lead story from the first edition.

One afternoon our headline was a huge one that took up half the front page. I believe it had something to do with the Vietnam War.

I came back from lunch and that story had been replaced in the final edition with a story the same size about dead chickens in Idaho.

Maybe this current story bothers me in other ways. First was the number of things that might have actually gone wrong as I listened to aviation authorities discussing the crossed wires and malfunctions of mechanical failure that could have caused devastating results.

It's not that I'm a nervous flier, but I'm still a little unsure how something like a jumbo jet can get off the ground.

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There was the possibility of hijackers and long discussion on cable TV of just how many places there were to land a huge plane and hide it and its passengers from view.

I was a tad disturbed to learn that not only were there passengers on board using stolen passports but that nobody seemed too sure who some people were.

Now that we've reached the point of baring everything in security stations just to be allowed on board, you would think they might know who everyone is.

Equally troubling was the possibility that the pilot or another crew member had decided to fly the aircraft directly into the ocean.

That's been one of my many fears getting on planes. I always tried to make it a point to spot the pilot and hoped that he would look something like John Wayne, with just a touch of gray and steely blue eyes. It would help if he was softly whistling that song from “The High and the Mighty.”

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So for three weeks we've been living with this. You might think nothing else was going in the world.

For all I know we've gone to war in Ukraine and there is even the remote possibility our government has gone back to work and has passed a budget or at least a bill or two, as unlikely as that seems.

My guess is that eventually, whether it's this week or two years from now, we'll find the plane and the real experts will come up with the answers.

Right now it might be nice to get back to what else is going on in the world — with the possible exception of who is going to run for president two years from now. Until then it's not “breaking news” in my book.

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